This is what it’s like to ride North Korea’s marble-clad subway

People leave a subway station visited by foreign reporters, in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 14, 2017.

REUTERS / Damir Sagolj

People leave a subway station visited by foreign reporters, in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 14, 2017.

Far below North Korea’s secretive capital, a bustling subway system connects the city’s workers.

Comprising of 16 stops constructed predominantly in the 1970s, the Pyongyang Metro sees hundreds of thousands of workers fill its halls and escalators every day.

The transport setting is bizarre. Dimly lit halls contrast lustrously polished statues of former leaders, while cast-off German trains juxtapose vibrant murals depicting scenes of revolutionary triumph.

Only around 5,000 Western tourists visit North Korea every year, which makes imagery of daily life in Pyongyang rare — especially when photography is limited.

The Metro offers a unique reflection of North Korean society as a whole, scroll down to take a glimpse into a Pyongyang commute.

Welcome to the Pyongyang Metro. A ticket to travel will set you back a paltry 5 won, which, at the time of writing, is £0.004.

Sources: North Korea Confidential, FXExchangeRate.com.

Here is where the MTR will take you. It is currently formed of two lines — the Chollima Line and the Hyŏksin Line. Stations are not named after places, but revolutionary phraseology, such as Kaeson, meaning ‘Triumph.’

Source: Earth Nutshell.

The Pyongyang Metro is 110 metres underground, making it one of the deepest subway systems in the world. It’s so deep that stations double up as bomb shelters — hallways are protected by thick steel blast doors.

Source: Business Insider.

The total descent takes almost 4 minutes, while revolutionary anthems boom from overhead antique speakers.

Source: Business Insider.

The interiors of the subway stations are often opulent, boasting marble pillars, chandeliers, and paintings of Kim Jong-il.

Source: CNN.

The trains themselves are ex-German cars, purchased in the late 1990s. It’s hard to tell the carriages’ past as they have been carefully painted over, though, some German graffiti in the carriage interiors lets the secret slip.

Sources: Earth Nutshell, WIRED.

Trains come and go often — every 2 minutes during rush hour.

Source: Earth Nutshell.

At the bottom of the escalators, adverts are replaced by state-controlled newspapers. Travellers can stop and peruse the daily news.

Tourists are accompanied by guides on their Metro journeys and are only allowed to travel to certain stations.

Each carriage contains portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, framed thicker at the top to give the impression that the former leaders are looking over the commuters.

Source: Business Insider.

Metro trains also have the ability to play announcements or music over the speakers.

One tourist found himself listening to Rossini’s “il barbiere di siviglia” between two stops.

The grandeur of Pyongyang’s subway stations is allegedly designed to ‘bring affluence and luxury to the lives of even the lower working class,’ according to one traveller that used the system.

Source: Earth Nutshell.

Australian visitor, Elliot Davies told National Geographic: “Every single station pretty much covers all of what they really want the people in North Korea to listen to.”

Source: National Geographic.

“The whole journey in North Korea is political, where they want you to come out the other side and be like, ‘You know what? North Korea’s not that bad!”

Source: National Geographic.

Peace out, Pyongyang.


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